Monday, August 8, 2011

Drive Angry (2011)

A raunchy world where anything and everything goes

This is a modern day grindhouse-like movie, though it doesn't feel as innocent as it would have in the '70s when those films where fresh and pushing brand new limits, not to mention didn't have an over-blown budget where they had to instead get creative with what they had. It ultimately made those films what they were, flaws and all, and it's just one way of how unappreciative cult films were born. Flashy, exaggerated, crude, "Drive Angry" has an ensemble cast where everyone is a bad guy, cops and waitresses included, not to mention there's muscle cars and plenty of violence and sleaze to mop the floor with...and then some.

A gun-toting man named Milton (Cage) is shown in a heated car chase with two shady guys in Colorado. He demands info to get a baby back after a satanic cult leader with a bad southern drawl named Jonah King (Billy Burke) snatched it for a coming sacrifice. After dealing with the two men, he heads over on a state by state hunt to find where they're keeping the infant. A small town bombshell of a waitress named Piper (Amber Heard) quits her job and picks up Milton on the way out. After boyfriend trouble, a fight breaks out and Milton gives a helping hand to the young, bloody-lipped vixen and they take off in her now ex's '69 Charger. From then on out she feels like a strategy to the script instead of an authentic person to either be self-sacrificing when need be, eye-candy when things lose steam and then force sympathy to make a small stab at being a well-rounded picture if it ever was one.

William Fichtner, from "Prison Break," puts on a decent and memorable performance as a more eccentric and supernatural suit and tie than the mentioned called "The Accountant" who sniffs the air and uses superhuman strength to track Milton. He flashes an imaginary FBI badge and uses hypnosis on the local police for their resources to find the fugitives. The movie does whatever it wants, where it wants, when it wants, whether that be violence, nudity, cursing, chases, stunts, out of place jokes or just general horniness with all included no matter the context. Part of this is fun but where it loses its replay value is practically every scene is made to be an exception to the rule and instead of breaking boundaries it feels far too easy due to being robbed of any consequence or challenge. Troma Entertainment has been pumping out movies like "The Toxic Avenger" for the last couple decades in a similar vein, though where those felt like down-in-the-gutter "clever trash" with unwashable offense and grime dripping all over it, this feels like a slicker and more spoiled Hollywood version, one where you know they're well-known, well-paid actors performing in front of expensively laid out sets that include blue screens and state-of-the-art CGI.

Nick Cage goes through the motions, puts on another bad toupee and never once flinches. I could see if he's going for a Clint Eastwood style with a no nonsense mission ahead of him to rescue the baby and head back, though he constantly stops to smell the roses with various indulgences but hardly thinks or gets surprised when a problem arises. Example: drinking liquor from the bottle, loudly screwing, while still wearing his cool shades and clothing, and then popping caps into random guys walking through the door while never "dismounting" in perfect sequence and timing, not to mention without being seriously scathed. Funny? I guess. Possible? Might as well give him wings and the power to breath fire while they're at it because there's nothing he can't do. This is indeed loaded with fast-flying action scenes, gory violence and vulgarities--which is a plus because it's getting away with more for a general audience theater movie compared to ten years ago--though the devil-worshippin' baby snatchers seem like old SNES archetypes with no purpose other than to be killed, while the main character has unlimited lives and never a facial expression worth remembering.

"Drive Angry" feels like the writers couldn't resist including anything they felt like, and even when they tried to set up a worked out scene or introduce a new character it seemed all too convenient and preplanned just to set up another. This makes everything so consistently simple and it becomes impossible to forget that you're watching a movie to momentarily escape into. Even the antihero persona Eastwood made infamous included some reserve and measurement so it would be easier to accept an over-the-top scene because he studies and does nothing but waits for it--this just seems like an adult Looney Tunes adventure. Imaginative, yes, but what the viewer is presented with--a marketable and forced "cult classic" like "Death Proof" and "Machete"--wasn't able to bottle all those free-floating ideas to make them worth reliving over again.

Rating: 4/10

Director: Patrick Lussier (Dracula 2000, White Noise 2, My Bloody Valentine)
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, William Fichtner, Billy Burke
Link: IMDB

Facts from the Black and Red:

- In its day, the '69 Dodge Charger R/T had a factory price of close to $3,600.

- On November 18, 1978, 918 people directly and indirectly involved with the Peoples Temple religious cult died at Jonestown located in Guyana, making it the largest single loss of American civilian life outside of a natural disaster at that point.

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